Determining Ka by the 24
Half-Titration of a Weak Acid
A common analysis of a weak acid or a weak base is to conduct a titration with a base or acid of
known molar concentration to help determine the equilibrium constant, Ka, for the weak acid or
weak base. If this titration is conducted very carefully and very precisely, the results can lead to a
valid approximation of an equilibrium constant. In this experiment, however, you will use a
different technique to determine the Ka for a weak acid, acetic acid.
Your primary goal in this experiment is to calculate the Ka of acetic acid. The data that you will
use to complete your calculations will come from the reaction of acetic acid with a solution of
NaOH. Recall from your work with weak acid-strong base titrations that the point at which a
reaction is half-titrated can be used to determine the pKa of the weak acid. In this experiment, the
half-titration point will exist when you have added half as many moles of HC2H3O2 as moles of
NaOH . Thus, OH– will have reacted with half of the HC2H3O2, leaving the solution with equal
moles of HC2H3O2 and C2H3O2 –. At this point, according to the Henderson-Hasselbalch
[C 2 H 3 O ]
pH pK a log 2
[HC 2 H 3 O 2 ]
if there are equal moles of HC2H3O2 and C2H3O2 – at the half-titration point, then pKa is equal to
the pH value of the solution.
In this experiment, you may find it surprising that you do not need to keep close track of the
volume of NaOH titrant added, as you would in most titrations. It is also unusual to conduct a
titration without plotting or analyzing a conventional titration curve. This is the nature of a half-
titration; it is only important to know when equal amounts of OH– and HC2H3O2 have been
In this experiment, you will
Conduct a reaction between solutions of a weak acid and sodium hydroxide.
Determine the half-titration point of an acid-base reaction.
Calculate the Ka and pKa for the weak acid.
Advanced Chemistry with Vernier 24 - 1
LabQuest 1.00 M sodium hydroxide, NaOH, solution
LabQuest App 1.00 M acetic acid, HC2H3O2, solution
Vernier pH Sensor phenolphthalein indicator solution
50 mL buret distilled water
buret clamp magnetic stirrer and stirring bar
250 mL beaker plastic Beral pipets
two ring stands utility clamp
1. Obtain and wear goggles.
2. Use a buret clamp to connect a 50 mL buret to a ring stand. Rinse and fill the buret with
1.00 M acetic acid solution. Handle the acetic acid with care. It can cause painful burns if it
comes into contact with the skin.
3. Transfer precisely 25.0 mL of the acetic acid solution to a 250 mL beaker.
4. Use a plastic Beral pipet to remove a small volume of the acetic acid from the 250 mL
beaker. Draw enough acetic acid into the pipet so that the bulb is about 1/4 full. Carefully set
aside the pipet of acid, to be used later.
5. Add 1–2 drops of phenolphthalein indicator solution to the beaker of acetic acid.
6. Connect the pH Sensor to LabQuest and choose New from the File menu. If you have an
older sensor that does not auto-ID, manually set up the sensor.
7. Obtain about 50 mL of 1.00 M NaOH solution. CAUTION: Sodium hydroxide solution is
caustic. Avoid spilling it on your skin or clothing.
8. Begin the half-titration.
a. Place the beaker of acetic acid on a magnetic stirrer and add a stirring bar.
b. Set up a ring stand and clamp to hold the pH Sensor in place (see Figure 1). Position the
pH Sensor in the beaker so that the tip of the probe is completely immersed.
c. Gently stir the acetic acid solution.
d. Do not start data collection. Monitor the pH of the reaction mixture on LabQuest.
e. Use a new plastic Beral pipet to slowly add the 1.00 M NaOH solution, in ~1 mL
increments, to the beaker of acetic acid solution (see Figure 1).
9. Conduct the titration carefully. As the reaction approaches the equivalence point, at about
pH 6, add the NaOH solution drop by drop. When you reach the equivalence point, the pH
will increase rapidly and the indicator will change color. If necessary, add another drop of
NaOH, so that the reaction is slightly past the equivalence point. Remember that the pH will
not increase rapidly beyond the equivalence point (pH ~10).
10. Add all of the acetic acid from the Beral pipet, which you removed in Step 4, to the beaker of
reaction mixture. Check the pH readings and observe the indicator color. The mixture should
be slightly acidic once again.
24 - 2 Advanced Chemistry with Vernier
Determining Ka by the Half-Titration of a Weak Acid
11. Carefully add NaOH, drop by drop, to the beaker of reaction mixture, until you reach the
equivalence point as precisely as possible. A very slight pink color of the phenolphthalein
indicator is visible. This is your half-titrated solution, because you have neutralized precisely
25.0 mL of the original 50.0 mL of acetic acid that you measured out into the buret.
12. Transfer the remaining 25.0 mL of acetic acid from the buret to the 250 mL beaker of
reaction mixture. Stir the solution in the beaker thoroughly. Read and record the pH of the
solution in the beaker.
13. When you have finished the testing, dispose of the reaction mixture as directed. Rinse the pH
Sensor with distilled water in preparation for a second trial. Repeat the necessary steps to test
a new sample of the acetic acid solution.
Titration Results Trial 1 Trial 2
Equivalence point pH
pH of half-titrated solution
1. Calculate the pKa and Ka using the results of your testing.
2. Find the accepted values for the pKa and Ka of acetic acid. How well do the accepted values
compare with your calculated values? Explain.
3. Explain why the pH at the half-titration point is equal to the pKa in your experiment.
4. Explain how this test could be done using only an indicator solution and no electronic means
of measuring pH.
Advanced Chemistry with Vernier 24 - 3